From 24-26 February, UKYA and Abingdon Studios Blackpool are taking 12 artists from across the country to Blackpool for a weekend of creative exploration. This mini residency offers a period of flux and change to artists with little expectation beyond being curious and having time to think and to learn and share with others. Catch up with the goings-on of the Blackpool Weekender here:


Even though storm Doris had its best tried to scupper our Blackpool Weekender, by Friday the storm had passed; the skies were blue and most importantly all the artists had arrived in one piece. After settling in, lunch and intros from Michael Trainor of LeftCoast about their work, our young artists were all working together developing a pop up group exhibition to be open to the public that evening. Richard Smith from Lancaster Arts did a fantastic job getting everyone in the group to feel welcome and part of the collective. After Andrew Gannon led an amazing workshop on how a humble object could reflect their working processes (in this case a chair) and general getting to know you chat, the group were given some iconic Blackpool rock as a starting point for their pop up exhibition to be opened 2 hours later. 

The open studio pop up event was a great success with local audiences saying how great it was to have young artists from across the UK visiting Blackpool, having fun and creating impromptu work. There was a real buzz in Abingdon Studios... even the local press gave us a mention - our group is now known as the 'artistic dozen'!

After a celebratory local Lebanese meal everyone retired in preparation for another full day responding to the cultural delights of Blackpool.


We all met at Blackpool tower - a grand old building with a very kitsch shop. The panoramic views of Blackpool at the top of the tower were an inspiration and enjoyed by all. The ballroom was a feast for the eyes and we all watched the older generation perform their dancing. The artists were taking photos and videos, and beginning to collect and produce ideas taking inspiration from their surroundings.

Moving on to the Grundy Art Gallery, we were all introduced to the space by the curator, Richard Parry and had a tour of the current show and schools exhibition Neon:The Charged Line in which children were invited to respond to the unique and historic Blackpool illuminations archive. It was great to hear from two Blackpool-based artists who were invited in to talk about their work that we were viewing in the gallery space.

Before lunch and the self directed learning we all gathered back at Abingdon Studios where the founder and director of the studios Garth Gratrix talked to the artists about where he finds inspiration and the techniques he employs in his practice. The artists then had a few hours to get lunch and reflect on what they had experienced. They self navigated Blackpool, wondering along the seafront and piers documenting their experience in relation to their own practice and collaborating in groups that had organically formed.

Back in Abingdon studios the artists had the opportunity to work with Thomas Small from Shaper Caper and watch sections from his critically acclaimed work Within This Dust. Using Within This Dust as inspiration and the notion of plain paper as a starting point the artists could collaborate or work on their own to create site specific responses. All of the impromptu works produced were so varied, personal and inspiring!

After a rewarding but intense day it was time to kick back with a fish'n'chip supper and a night at Funny Girls, the longest running burlesque cabaret show in Blackpool... apart from having a great time the skill and professionalism of the performers was admired.


Contemplative time and goodbyes - It was great to hear what our young artists got from the weekend - so much information and food for thought! So good to hear that new and existing works are being planned and refined from the weekender and also collaborative friendships and networks have been formed. Robert and Alex have planned to work together in Liverpool and all have established a Facebook group with a reunion planned in Nottingham very soon.

A huge thanks to all of the brilliant artists that took part, for your enthusiasm and openness, and to our partners, speakers, guest and critical friends in Blackpool. Looking forward to the next UKYA Weekender already!

Laura Evans